We All Got Angry
by Chris de Serres
We were surrounded by long hair and beards. Black t-shirts, ripped jeans, chains dangling from back pockets. The men were bald. Some of them wore black eyeliner. Tattoos flowed down arms and legs. The women had jet black hair, pasty flesh, and tattoos in and around their mouths. The inside of the venue was dark, the lights on dim. It was crowded. I stood upright, contracted my shoulders, and extended my arms out to guard my personal space.
On the main floor was a collection of men, most with their shirts off. There was an electricity down there. Something was going to happen. I was on the second level. We had our phones out, recording the buzz. Ready to go live on Facebook.
It was an unexpected evening. I didn’t know what Metalcore was. Wikipedia said it was a mixture of heavy metal and punk rock. It was quite popular in the 90’s, but like every subgenre of music it would always be a niche music.
The band we were waiting for was a big deal in the Pacific Northwest in the 90’s. They were part of a burgeoning metal scene that followed in the coattails of the Grunge explosion.
Tonight was a reunion show. The only reason why I was here was because the lead singer invited us as special guests. We knew him as the father of little Johnny, one of the kids in the preschool Ophelia runs out of our home. John Sr. looked the part. Tattoos from neck to toe. He sported a gray speckled beard which flowed to his waist. He reminded me of a shorter version of Rob Zombie. Yet, he was incredibly friendly, personable, and filled with positive energy.
I had a feeling tonight would be a very different kind of energy. We didn’t know his music but we understood that his band was beloved in the Northwest. So we had to go.
We didn’t know what to expect. This was not my scene. But I love music, all kinds. There’s something extra special about live music. I imagine a reunion show meant this band had to show that they still had it, so the music would be good.
More people crowded in. I pulled Ophelia a little closer to me. I didn’t even think of going to the bathroom now and risk losing my spot.
The crowd roared. I pulled the earplugs out of my pocket and self-consciously jammed them in my ears. The lead guitarist came out first. A tall man. He grabbed a guitar that looked like a long pitchfork. Plugged in and began laying into this driving riff. Then the rest of the band came out in white lab coats.
John came out and marched to the microphone and yanked it off the stand as if he had an axe to grind. He looked like a feral wolverine up on stage. His chest out. His movements dominating. The drummer came in behind the guitarist with a locomotive drumbeat.
Heads began banging toward the front of the stage. John let out a guttural roar. Impressive. Almost like a war cry. I briefly wondered if my video recorder could take the sound.
The crowd along the stage began moving in a wave-like motion of heads. John got right at the edge of the stage. From my view he almost seemed to be hovering above the crowd. His fists waved, like our heavy metal messiah preaching fire, brimstone, and the zombie apocalypse. I couldn’t understand a word he was singing because it all came out in this angry grizzly bear-like register.
Ophelia and I looked at each other a little perplexed. Was this the genial dad who offered us hugs as he picked up his kid from school each day?
He was an angry monster, channeling his 20-something rage from another time. I couldn’t help getting a little angry too. Audience members mounted the stage and dived into the crowd. Some headfirst. Others doing flips in the air before coming down with authority on the crowd. One guy came running full sprint from the back of the stage and briefly swept the crowd to the ground.
My old body cringed with every dive. Then John diving into the crowd, bringing the microphone with him. The crowd held him high while he kept singing.
How did he do that?
A guitarist tossed a pinata filled with candy into the crowd. They tore it to pieces and candy shot upward like a water fountain. John dumped water on the crowd and i’m sure they needed it.
I closed my eyes and began headbanging. Then I realized I have periodic bouts of vertigo, so I stopped. The guy in front of me was way more impressive anyways with his waist long mane. This was not his first headbang.
Everybody was angry and laughing and in a frenzy. Like a street mob. Just a little bit out of control. A stuffed animal smacked me in the head. I grabbed it aggressively and launched it across the room.
John was charging from one end of the stage to the other, letting his worldbreaker voice go free. I wondered how long he could do that. He texted us last night and told us he had a fever. We knew he was working on strict adrenaline.
When the last song came, John was laying on his back, still roaring strong. You could tell the fever was taking it’s toll. Someone tossed a big plastic axe on stage. John grabbed it, stood up, and pretended he was bludgeoning the front row.
Then it ended. We filed outside into the cool Seattle air. Hot air was rising from the crowd of bodies near the entrance.
I thought to myself you just never know people. Even singers in heavy metal bands grow up and have kids and go on vacation. You never know what people are passionate about unless they open up to you. Put you on a guest list. Let you watch them in their element. I love seeing and feeling the passion pour out.